LYNN NEARY, host:
Here's an update on a story we're following in India today. The Olympic torch was carried through the heart of the Indian capital, New Delhi. Hours earlier, Tibetan exiles gathered in protest.
Unidentified Group: We want freedom.
Unidentified Man: What do we want?
Unidentified Group: We want freedom.
NEARY: India is home to the world's largest community of exiled Tibetans, as well as the Dalai Lama and his government in exile. Security was extremely tight, with some 15,000 police guarding the relay route. NPR's Philip Reeves was on the streets of New Delhi today. He joins me now.
Philip, the torch route, as I understand it, was cut from five miles to less than two. What was the scene, exactly?
PHILIP REEVES: Well, it was dominated by extremely tight security. This was not an event that embraced the great public of India, by any means. There were many layers to this security. There were police on horseback. They were commandos. There was a whole panoply of people who were there to make sure that this event went off without causing any event or allowing any incident that the Indian government would deem embarrassing to itself.
NEARY: Now we just heard some tape of Tibetan exiles protesting earlier. I gather they got nowhere near the torch.
REEVES: One or two of them actually did manage to sneak through the outer rings of security and were very quickly detained and bundled into police vans after shouting in front of the cameras that were waiting there free Tibet and other slogans against China, and attempting to distribute some leaflets. But that was about as far as they got, and there were only, I suppose, about a dozen of them, perhaps a few more. But it wasn't by any means a massive protest.
NEARY: But even before the torch arrived in New Delhi, there were some protests.
REEVES: Yes, indeed. There was a much more dramatic and choreographed, nonviolent parallel run, as it was billed by the organizers, in which a torch was carried by Tibetans, by hundreds of young Tibetans through the streets of New Delhi. Several thousand of them have been assembling in New Delhi in recent days, according to Tibetan activists, with a view to take part in protests just like this. And that protest was very colorful. There were Tibetan flags being flourished. They danced. They had drama groups, and it was all performed very effectively in front of many, many media cameras and reporters who'd gathered there to watch the scene. So they got their publicity.
NEARY: Do the people of India and their government support the Tibetan cause?
REEVES: The general view here is that Indians are basically pro-Tibetan, but the government, however, takes a much more ambivalent stance. On the one hand, it allows - and has for 50 years - allowed the Dalai Lama and his government in exile to operate out of a base here in India. But on the other hand, they have improved what have been, at times, brittle and fragile relations with China steadily in recent years. And quite recently, China became India's biggest trading partner. And the government of India has made no secret of the fact that it wants to protect that relationship and to improve those relations which still have within them some difficulties over the borders and so on, and they place that as a greater priority than triumphing the cause of the Tibetans.
NEARY: And just quickly, were there other people out on the streets beyond protestors, that were there to watch the parade go by at all? Or...
REEVES: No. Because there was no way that the ordinary public could actually get this event. So most people, who, if they were interested, would have been forced to watch it on the television, which had wall-to-wall coverage of it. The streets were extremely eerie. I mean, this is one of the most vivacious and crowded and vibrant cities in the world, and yet the center of it was absolutely deserted but for policeman and reporters and the odd Tibetan who managed to sneak in.
NEARY: NPR's Philip Reeves in New Delhi, where the Olympic torch was paraded today.
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